Broadband and Regional Planning: Paths to Productivity in Civic Economy and Public Works

September 12, 2012


How do we best plan for the future in local communities and surrounding regions, using broadband infrastructure and tools?


That is, how can in Illinois reduce costs for citizens, businesses and government, and improve lives and the local economy in a competitive world, using broadband infrastructure and outreach networks?


Following are links to help broadband adoption and use programs to develop partnership arrangements with private and public infrastructure stakeholders.  Effective business plans start with “common activities” of project cooperation, data sharing, joint financing and revenue-sharing.  These links will highlight the roles of multi-county regional planning agencies, as one form of public-private partnership, working with PCI eTeams in 10 regions of Illinois, to help start and nurture broadband “supply + demand” projects.


Excitingly, there are new resources to help many audiences envision-the-future in community scenarios and to help regional planners and community anchor institutions alike invest in cost-saving and revenue-generating multi-year initiatives.  They can help community anchor institution “plan and implement” partnerships with Gigabit-level universities, communication carriers, businesses, transportation-related developments and utilities.


  1. Broadband Planning Videos, Print and Online Tools: Stop, Look and Listen!


First,  citizens and planners can use state of the art “envision the future” tools to think through community scenarios and develop relations which can lead to partnerships.   See Betaville tools for citizen collaboration for urban design.  Last year, it was presented at the MAS (Municipal Art Society of New York?) NYC Summit by Carl Skelton of NYU/Poly (mostly) and Norman Jacknis, director of Cisco public sector research.(a bit).  The 20 minute video of the presentation (although not the discussion that followed) is available at t: directly or through  A four minute presentation that is more about the software can be found at:  There’s also a longer video at


Second, there’s a new book Planning and Broadband — Infrastructure, Policy and Sustainability — prepared as a report by American Planning Association’s Planning Advisory Service.   Authored by longtime planners and researchers Kathleen McMahon , Ronald L. Thomas and Charles Kaylor it is now available from APA publications.

You can find it here : e:


See also the APA National Infrastructure Task Force Report October 2010 and its

Framework for linking utilities (including communications) planning and investment with other transportation and public works (roads, bridges, waterways) in local and regional areas


Third, there are a number of on-line “broadband and planning” video presentations,

including those since 2008 at APA Chicago Tuesday program series.   These

have included “Broadband 101 for Planners and Community Leaders,”presentation by

parties such as  Ron Thomas, the retired executive director of Northeastern Illinois

Planning Commission (now merged into Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning) and

Joe Mambretti of International Center for Advanced Internet Research at

Northwestern University, and a co-chair of Infrastructure and Access Committee of

Illinois Broadband Deployment Council.  See September 2008 APA Chicago Tuesday

Local Planning for Broadband Infrastructure  Ron Thomas, Layton Olson

See 101 + Events video archive of many planning presentations and other events by

Digital Workforce Education Society

See resources on the use of rights of way prepared by Rita Stull, nationally-experienced

Right of way planner for both telecommunications and electricity installations.  TeleDimensions  – Juliet (Joint underground location of infratructure for electricl and telecommunications)


For an introduction to the language and definitions of broadband, utility, transport and public works infrastructure, see the article Refining Regional Risk in the 21st Century, by long time Illinois-based IT infrastructure consultant Jim Carlini.  It appears (see page 5) of Center for Infrastucture and Homeland Security in the George Mason University’s School of Law CIP Report.  This is designed as a guide for those involved in determining and prioritizing public/private projects.


Finally, the history of Partnership for a Connected Illinois1996 -2011, written in early 2012 by Drew Clark, executive director of PCI and Layton Olson provides many examples of consumer demand and supply side cooperation with goals of expanding Broadband for all and investing in American competitiveness.   It appeared in the Spring 2012 publication of the  Regional and Intergovernmental Planning Division of the American Planning Association  _______.


  1. Regional planning, transportation and funding for planning infrastructure utilities – including broadband


Illinois Association of Regional Councils, based in Springfield, is our state’s association of multi-county pubic-private partnerships for regional planning.  It works with public-private planning partnerships in many Federally and state-funded public works (transportation, water/sewer, public safety) and  public investment (economic development, housing, health) major capital projects


Regional multi-county regional planning has been required for decades by the Federal government to be sure Federal transportation, economic development and other infrastructure funding is coordinated for long-term results.  Planning has been both required and funded through so-called “allowable cost” formulas for specific priority plans, such as for the extensive work in setting priorities at states and localities set 5 year transportation infrastructure engineering and construction budgets.  Regional planning agencies also host many GIS professional associations, with interests in broadband mapping for use in planning and local decision-making.


While, to date, no such “allowable costs” language for communication and utility infrastructure planning has been included in Federal legislation, the  recently enacted 27 month Federal surface transportation act, however, does include a small special program for Transit-oriented development planning. As broadband and other utility planning is often linked with transportation planning, such as through so-called “dig once” mandates by Federal, state and local agencies, there are opportunities in Illinois for regional planning agencies to work with broadband infrastructure + use partnerships, such as PCI and its eTeams in 10 DCEO regions.


Beginning in 2009 Illinois Department of Transportation began working under legislative authority to work with other state agencies for a statewide fiber conduit network.  See  IDOT, Illinois Tollway and others are now providing leadership for Illinois Broadband Deployment Council to compile “dig once” best practices, draft ordinances and other resources to help county and city agencies, potentially including training programs assisted by regional planning agencies.


On June 13, President Obama signed an executive order to coordinate Federal agency programs, facilities and highways to extend low cost, high performance fiber across the nation.  This includes working with states and localities to cut the costs of fiber installation by 90 percent through “dig once” initiatives whenever construction takes place on roads, utilities and Federally-affected buildings.


On June 14 at a White House event he joined with US Ignite public-private and university coalition to announce several Gigabit applications projects, designed to help business competitiveness, learning access, civic engagement and productivity.   See


The Illinois impact of Right of Way cooperation and other public-private cooperation on infrastructure are topics of upcoming Illinois Broadband Deployment Council meetings, along with initiatives like Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge, with decisions coming up in fall 2012.

  1. The future of broadband-linked Regional Planning includes Southern Lake Michigan 3-state planning

Where to begin?   There are opportunities for Illinois to begin broadband-based regional planning during the time leading up to the April 2013 American Planning Association’s national conference in Chicago.    These activities can include multi-state planning for 3-state Southern Lake Michigan region, including in planning among already-linked community response and public safety communication parties, everyday and in times of emergency.

See recent coverage of growing importance of regional planning cooperation among mayors of Chicago, Milwaukee, Gary, Indiana and other  towns.  In Indiana

In Chicago


With David Shafer, Muenster Indiana’s Clerk-Treasurer, Town of Munster, Indiana as the incoming President of the National Association of Regional Councils , there are Local opportunities to put the topic of Broadband and Regional Planning on the Illinois-Wisconsin-Indiana agenda now


What is a Service Quality Assembly?


What is a Consumer-Provider Assembly?

Layton E. Olson, February 2006


Service quality assemblies are a form of organized feedback and evaluation of products or services designed to help a company, public agency or nonprofit enterprise improve services, and in developing new products and services, often provided on an annual schedule in which participants learn from year-to-year experience.


Assemblies often bring together product and service provider staff, as well as research and development staff or consultants, and staff of entities or customers who pay for or use the product or service and rely on it on a regular basis, along with vendors who sell products or services that are integral to the process   In some assemblies, end users or consumers or their representatives or agents may participate.  In other assemblies, the experience of consumers in understanding, using and paying for services is summarized in detailed reports for review.   There is normally a review of databases of service availability, delivery and investment over a period of years, with each product or service summarized as a “mass process” product or service.


Assemblies are a time when top executives or board members of companies, institutions or agencies have an opportunity to meet with the experts in various product or service lines, and often with key cooperating parties, customers or public officials, in order to understand and make plans on budgets and organizational priorities for the coming year or years.


What is an example of human service assemblies in human service sector?

A long-standing model of service assemblies involves feedback on the delivery of educational services through mass processes of administering postsecondary education aptitude and achievement tests with reports going to admissions offices, administering financial aid applications submitted to a variety of public and private scholarship, work and loan sources, and administering specialized assessments of many kinds, as in vocational and career development fields.   The College Board, an association of colleges and other parties, including associations of high school and educational service organizations (which contracts with Educational Testing Service and other parties for the development and administration of services) and the American College Testing Program, a similar program, traditionally hold service assemblies for college, high school and community service providers, to bring together persons “on both sides” of an important life transition tool, to provide direct feedback on technical matters and to discuss wider issues that may affect the design and delivery of educational services.


Assemblies are conducted on a regular calendar in the application processing year in regional areas (within states or multi-state regions) and nationally in time to make changes for the coming educational cycle facing students, their families, teachers, school and community counselors and educational and vocational service institutions and public agencies.   At some of these assemblies, consumer and family advocates who work with community service providers participate, often focusing on issues such as outreach information on availability of services (e.g.  fee waivers for testing of students from low income families, understandability of information or report forms) and basic standards and funding for access to educational opportunities.


These assemblies benefit from the stability of management from year to year by regular staff, and the flexibility and relatively low costs arising from the volunteer participation in the assembly by many professionals, companies, agencies and associations which have interests in the quality and availability of services to improve the lives of particular kinds of persons they work for or interact with.    There are often reports from academic researchers, as well as specialized researchers from service providers themselves, on specific topics that assembly planning committees find to be top priority among the interests of attendees.   There are often presentations from key leaders in communities, businesses, educational institutions and among public officials who are interested the availability and the quality of service.


How do service assemblies work for Digital Government services of public agencies?

Increasingly, public agencies directly or in cooperation with nonprofit, business and educational enterprises are providing e-services, the success of which depend on the availability and understandability of specific audiences which may have the option to communicate or transact business either, or both, online and in person.   In these instances, it is important to understand the effectiveness of outreach information (is it “readable” for the audiences, does it reach the audiences in forms in which they can understand and make simply choices to respond for particular services, products), the availability of access to information, and the use of the information to save both the consumer and the provider time and money.


Many agencies provide several products and services to a variety of audiences.  Thus, service quality assemblies can perform both the function of enabling each product or service to learn more about its impact and improve its deliverables at the least cost, and how to link products and services in synergistic ways to improve customers’ lives.   Assemblies help agencies as part of their annual planning and budget cycles to collect and analyze “better data to make better decisions.”   Often times, there are ways to summarize the data in terms of simple “metrics” that allow decision makers and members of the public to understand and use services, including metrics on performance standards or benchmarks that may appear on an agency’s website and in annual reports.   The Chicago Transit Authority is an example where there is a Board mandate to all departments to provide metrics that can be posted to the CTA website for riders and others.


What is a consumer-provider service quality assembly?

A consumer-provider assembly provides for a cross-section of consumers to participate in a service assembly along with providers and vendors.   For “digital government” assemblies, consumer-provider assemblies provide for the review of outreach/awareness activities, electronic tools and public services by consumer and consumer association parties working with public officials and public agencies, procurement staff and vendors of technology and management services.   Assemblies can be half-day, one-day or two-day events, and involve substantial informal networking and sharing of information and industry trends across perspectives.  “The future of electronic tools and digital literacy for (youth, adults, seniors as clients of the agency)” is a generic title for the review and improvement of services in many fields.




Smart Information for Business, Family, and Community Choice:

Resource Guide for Community Anchor Institutions in the Age of Smart Card Connectivity



Click here to open full document: Resource Guide for Community Anchor Institutions in the Age of Smart Card Connectivity


The typical concept of business that everyone thinks about is going into stores and having a service or a product provided to them as well as an outreach website. However, this is only a part of what being in business means. Business is not always organized and many times, your business is your personal skillset that you have to offer to others. Every business collects data on consumers and their spending trends the same way individuals compile data throughout their life that they market in order to work their skills into this definition of the word.

Click here for the full article: Everyone’s in Business

our town everone's in business



Click here to access the full article: Better Information for Student and Community Choices




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